Fish is a controversial food. While some people don’t like its soft texture and salty taste, others love it because it’s lighter and often healthier than meat. One of the most popular types of fish is salmon. And as it’s also a very versatile sea creatures, it can be prepared in numerous ways and served with many different types of wine. But which wine and salmon pairings are best?

The best wine to pair with salmon is a white wine with a medium or full body. To stand the oily rich flesh, it needs a decent level of acidity. Oaked Chardonnay and Riesling are good matches. Their citrus flavors complement most salmon dishes.

Depending on preparation and seasoning, other wines can be great alternatives. So let’s discuss the best salmon and wine pairings.

What Is Salmon and How Does It Taste?

Salmon is a saltwater fish that is native to the Pacific as well as the Atlantic ocean. It’s fished from the wild, especially in Alaska or bred in fish farms, for instance, in Norway or Chile. With its oily pink flesh and its rich and refreshing taste, it differs significantly from other seafood. It might remind you of light meat rather than fish. That’s why many people, who don’t like fish in general, enjoy eating salmon.

Another fact that makes salmon popular worldwide is that it’s rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D. Omega-3 acids are good for the heart, and Vitamin D helps prevent diseases like cancer and diabetes. So salmon is actually great for your health.

As it’s a very versatile fish, you can prepare it in numerous ways. You can poach, grill, bake, or smoke it. You can serve it with a creamy sauce or season it with herbs and a bit of lemon juice. Besides, it’s common to eat salmon raw as tartare or sushi. Depending on the preparation method and the seasoning, you can create very different culinary experiences.

Two Thick Slices of Raw Salmon on a Wooden Board with Carrots and Cucumber

Raw Salmon Filets

Which Wine Goes With Which Salmon Dish?

The general rules for pairing food and wines are pretty simple: Red wines go with red meat, and white wines go with white meat. Strictly speaking, fish isn’t meat, but for the sake of simplicity, it’s usually put into the white meat category. And it’s common to combine fish dishes with light and dry white wines.

As mentioned before, salmon is different, though. Due to its rich flavor, it can easily overpower light-bodied wines. Thus, medium- or full-bodied wines that have intense and complex flavors are better matches. Oaked Chardonnay, White Burgundy, Marsanne, or Riesling have these characteristics.

Even red wines can be great matches for salmon. It’s essential to go for low-tannin wines, though. Sharp, crisp tannins can cause an unpleasant metallic taste when combined with the oily, salty flesh of salmon.

No matter if you prefer whites or reds, you should take the cooking method, the seasoning, and the side dishes into consideration before making your choice. With preparation and the use of spices, you can create very different culinary experiences that might require another wine pairing. Let’s have a closer look at specific wine and salmon matches.

Raw Salmon and Wine

If you serve raw salmon, for instance, tartare, sushi, sashimi, or gravlax, pick a crispy white wine with citrus flavors and good acidity. Try Grüner Veltliner, Chardonnay, or a Sauvignon Blanc from the French region of Sancerre. A fruity Torrontés from Argentina is a good option as well.

In case you like Rosé wines, try one that was made with the Saignée Method. As wines made with this technique are bolder than other rosé wines, they pair greatly with raw salmon.

Raw Salmon

Plate of Raw Seasoned Salmon

Baked Salmon With a Crispy Skin

Baking salmon in the oven gives it a crispy skin and intense flavors. A light-bodied red wine like Pinot Noir is a great pairing for this preparation. An option for lovers of red wine is Beaujolais, a French wine made from Gamay grapes. It’s low in tannins but high in acidity. Its fruity and earthy aromas complement the salmon’s flavors superbly. Sangiovese can work as well. But as its tannins tend to be much more intense, it can overpower the fish.

Riesling that isn’t too dry is a good pick for white wine lovers. Try a German Riesling Kabinett or Riesling Spätlese that is labeled as “restsüß” (or “restsüss”).

Grilled Salmon and Wine

By grilling salmon, you can add smoky flavors to it. These rich aromas allow you to pair it with full-bodied red wines. As said before, choose one that is rather low in tannins to avoid an unpleasant metallic taste.

Gamay is a great choice, and like for raw salmon, you can also go for a Saignée Rosé wine. If you are more into whites than into reds, pick a dry Pinot Gris. When barbecued with Cajun- or Creole-style spices, a more robust red wine is a proper match: Merlot or Zinfandel wines will do the job.

Plate of Grilled Salmon with Vegetables

Grilled Salmon with Vegetables

Smoked Salmon and Wine

Smoked salmon with onions and lemon (juice) is a traditional Christmas meal in some parts of Europe. But it’s also a well-known breakfast dish when served with cream cheese on bread or toast. To match this salty meal, you should drink wine with proper acidity. German Riesling is a delicious beverage for this meal. For red wine lovers, Grenache (or Garnacha as it’s called in Spain) is a great option too. Its smoky and earthy flavors match perfectly with the taste of the smoked salmon. Besides, the medium tannins and decent acidity balance the fish’s fatty texture.

Instead of white and red still wines, many gourmets drink sparkling wines like Sekt or Champagne with smoked salmon. White and rosé styles tend to taste delicious with it. They balance the fattiness and saltiness of the fish and the smoky aromas just perfectly. If you are open to some experimenting, you can also try Manzillado Sherry, which is a dry fortified wine from Spain.

Glazed Salmon and Wine

Especially in Asian cuisines, salmon often is served glazed. Teriyaki, Yakitori, or similar glazes typically contain sweet ingredients like brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, or pineapple juice. To match this sweetness, choose a wine with citrus flavors. Dry Riesling, white Moscato, Gewürztraminer, Albariño, Sémillon, or a fruity Pinot Noir are the right choices. If you are a friend of fortified wines, you can also pair glazed salmon with Sherry Fino.

Roasted or Poached Salmon With Creamy Sauces

Another classic preparation for salmon is a creamy topping like sauce béarnaise, a yogurt-cucumber-dressing, or a horseradish topping with dill. The right pairing for these dishes is a semi-sweet or sweet wine. Great options are Lambrusco, still Moscato (don’t confuse it with Moscato d’Asti), or a sweet Riesling.

Oaked Chardonnay or Vermentino make a good match as well. You can also try a Sauvignon Blanc, but you should focus on those from the New World. Look out for wines from Australia, or New Zealand.

Asian Style Salmon and Wine

Fish is an ingredient in many spicy meals from the Vietnamese, Thai, or Indonesian cuisine. Dishes like Choo Chee or Thai Curry style salmon combine fruity and spicy flavors with a creamy texture.

Pair these dishes with fruity white wines, for example, German Riesling, Italian Pinot Grigio, or French Sémillion. Dry wines are fines, but you can also try an off-dry or semi-sweet style.

Plate of Asian Style Salmon with Vegetables

Asian Style Salmon Dish

Final Words

No matter which style of preparing and seasoning you choose, you’ll find multiple wine and salmon pairings that work fine. In the end, the perfect pairing is a question of personal preference. Thus, you should try different styles to find out which pairing you like best. And maybe it makes sense to offer your guests more than one option to choose from when hosting your next salmon dinner party.